2016 Youth Literature Seminar Featured Speakers

10:30 am & 1:45 pm Naomi Shihab Nye


Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes. Her books of poetry include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, A Maze Me: Poems for Girls, Red Suitcase, Words under the Words, Fuel, and You & Yours (a best-selling poetry book of 2006). She is also the author of Mint Snowball (paragraphs); Never in a Hurry and I’ll Ask You Three Times, Are You Okay?, Tales of Driving and Being Driven (essays); Habibi and Going, Going (novels for young readers); Baby Radar, Sitti’s Secrets, and Famous (picture books), and There Is No Long Distance Now (a collection of very short stories). 

Other works include several prize-winning poetry anthologies for young readers, including Time You Let Me In, This Same Sky, The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems & Paintings from the Middle East, What Have You Lost?, and Transfer. Her collection of poems for young adults entitled Honeybee won the 2008 Arab American Book Award in the Children’s/Young Adult category. Her novel for children, The Turtle of Oman, was chosen both a Best Book of 2014 by The Horn Book and a 2015 Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association. The Turtle of Oman was also awarded the 2015 Middle East Book Award for Youth Literature.

“Naomi Shihab Nye breathes poetry like the rest of us breathe air. When she exhales, the world becomes different. Better.”

The Grand Rapids Press

Naomi Shihab Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House, for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2011 Nye won the Golden Rose Award given by the New England Poetry Club, the oldest poetry reading series in the country. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has been presented on National Public Radio on A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials including “The Language of Life with Bill Moyers” and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. 

She has been affiliated with The Michener Center for writers at the University of Texas at Austin for 20 years and also poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. In January 2010 Nye was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets. She was recently named laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature.

12:30 pm Jennifer Clark


Jennifer Clark, a Kalamazoo native, is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Necessary Clearings (Shabda Press, 2014). Clark’s work has been nominated for five Pushcart Prizes and a Rhysling Award. Her most recent work has been published in failbetter, Fiction Fix, Nimrod, Flyway, and ecotone. In 2017, Shabda Press will be releasing her second poetry collection, Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman. Clark also works at Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo on special projects and initiatives.

Her poems, short stories and memoir pieces have appeared in journals, anthologies and newspapers, many in the past five years. One story — “Tendencies,” about a woman who becomes magnetized — won an Editor’s Choice Award from Fiction Fix in 2013, and she had a poem nominated in 2014 for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award. Clark also had a play presented at the U.S. National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1993.

Clark grew up in the Arcadia and Westnedge Hill neighborhoods and returned to Kalamazoo in 2001. In between, she lived for 15 years in Pittsburgh, where she earned a master’s degree in existential psychology and worked with sex offenders and homeless, mentally ill individuals. She now lives back in Westnedge Hill with her husband and son.

9:15 am Ed Spicer


From graduate students to kindergarten students, Ed Spicer is an educator with a wide variety of experiences during the last two decades, including founding and writing a book review column for the Michigan Reading Journal. Ed retired from teaching first grade in June. 

Spicer has served on the Caldecott award committee, the Printz award committee and many other committees with the American Library Association. In June he was nominated and selected as one of Allegan’s “Outstanding People in Education.” He is a Cool Teacher winner in Michigan. Spicer continues to write curriculum guides for Penguin, Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, and Eerdmans. 

Currently he is reviewing books as a member of the Schneider Award committee. Friend him on Facebook: spicyreads@facebook.com. Follow him on Twitter: @spicyreads